This past legislative session — and money flowing into Pasco County from the state’s record $88.7 billion budget for fiscal year 2019 — was the topic du jour for State Rep. Danny Burgess, during a recent appearance at a North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce meeting.
Burgess, who represents the House District 38 seat covering east Pasco and portions of central Pasco, highlighted a number of local projects that received state funding:
- $15 million for the Overpass Road interchange at Interstate 75
- $4.3 million for the Thomas Varnadoe Forensic Center for Research and Education located at the Land O’ Lakes Detention Center
- $1 million for the proposed Sarah Vande Berg Tennis Center in Zephyrhills
- $5.9 million for upgrades at the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport
- $750,000 for a road study on pursuing an additional extension to State Road 56 that would link to State Road 39
“We walked away locally in east Pasco with the most historic levels of funding that we’ve ever had. We were able to do some pretty good things for this area,” said Burgess, the featured guest speaker at the chamber’s September breakfast at the Pasco-Hernando State College Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch in Wesley Chapel.
Overall, the entire state budget was a 7.6 percent increase, or about $6.3 billion more than the 2018 fiscal budget.
Burgess noted the considerable surge was due to some “unforeseen things,” including Hurricane Irma, the Parkland shooting and rising health care costs related to Medicaid.
Even so, Burgess said the state still came away with a balanced budget and AAA bond rating, which he characterizes as “fantastic news” for areas, including Pasco County, that are “developing and growing and expanding their business base.”
Said Burgess: “All of the major publications and research entities in the country are still ranking Florida the top one, or two, in terms of fiscal health and places that people want to be in, and, places that people want to start their business, so that matters. Florida is right there neck and neck with Texas in terms of desirability and enacting the right policies to have a friendly business climate, so those are things that we can continue to foster and build upon as we move forward.”
Meanwhile, of the 74 bills signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, Burgess said the “biggest win” of the legislative session was the passage of HB 37, which sets forth parameters for direct primary care agreements.
Under direct primary care agreements, doctors charge patients monthly fees in advance of providing services, with patients then able to access services at no extra charge.
The bill amends the state insurance code to make clear that direct primary care agreements do not violate insurance regulations.
Primary care providers are defined as physicians, osteopathic physicians, chiropractors, nurses or primary care group practices.
Burgess, who sponsored the bill with Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, said there’d been an attempt to pass some variation of the bill over the last four years.
He explained the legislation should benefit small businesses who’d like to offer health care options for their employees, but otherwise can’t afford to in the traditional health care marketplace.
“This bill is a great way to expand options and access for Floridians everywhere,” the state representative said.
“It removes that middleman of bureaucracy of health care and health insurance, and it allows so much more time between the patient and doctor.
“I think that it’ll have a big impact for us as we move forward. More doctors are going to start practicing in this arena, which is great,” the state lawmaker said.
Elsewhere, Burgess touched on other priorities Florida needs to address going forward — such as expanding opportunities for veterans statewide.
The state representative stressed the need to provide more options for soldiers suffering from combat-related illnesses, including post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries.
He also mentioned the need to create more workforce opportunities for veterans through equivalency of training programs in careers, including law enforcement, engineering, firefighting, contracting and others.
Said Burgess: “Florida needs to be the most veteran-friendly state in the nation. I think that we’re close to being there.
“We’ve done a lot to be there, but I think we have a long way to go.”
Published September 12, 2018